I will come here one day to talk boldly about security and good governance and I will be able to tell you that, indeed, we all can sleep with our two eyes closed.. This is the Lagos of my dream. This is the Lagos that I see. This is the Lagos that we are promising you. And this is the Lagos that we believe is possible for each and every one of us.
A year ago when we were at the Baptist Shepherd Hill Church, where our CAN president, Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, admonished us and challenged us, the first index case of COVID-19 had not happened in Nigeria. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the unprecedented security challenges facing our dear country. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the huge destruction that came out of the peaceful EndSARS protests that we witnessed in Lagos. A year ago, we hadn’t seen the recession that has culminated in the economic crises in our country and the world. And so, everyone of us here today has every reason to thank the Almighty God that has kept us because it has been a difficult year.
The last one year has been a difficult year for us as a government. Nigeria has had to test over one million for COVID-19. Our country has been hit by over 150,000 infected patients. Lagos has remained the epicentre of the virus, with over 40 per cent of all of the national statistics. Globally, the virus has taken over 2.5 million people; it has infected over 10 million.
Lagos also witnessed an unprecedented protest that started peacefully. Our youths, the leaders of today, voiced their grievances to all of us in government and this led to a destruction that we have never seen before in this part of the world. We were asking ourselves, “how did we get here?” We have also seen that within that one year, Nigeria’s economy had been hit by recession. We have seen high numbers of unemployment. We have seen huge security challenges that have shaken the foundation of our country. We have seen all of the economic challenges that have not only hit Nigeria but the bigger parts of the entire world. But we thank God that we are standing and we are seated today with the grace that the Most High has given to each and every one of us.
And so, if we reflect and listen to the gospel this morning: “And he says, why do you eat and drink with the collectors and the sinners?” Who are the collectors and the sinners? Probably politicians, including I, standing in front of you; other government officials standing in front of you. Why? But our Lord Jesus answered and said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” I think if that passage did not hit all of you, it hit me because it is a time for sober reflection. It is a time that the topic we have taken here today, “A new beginning, a new dawn and a new glory”, cannot be better imagined and cannot be better put forward. Is it the security situation in our country? It calls for prayers now more than ever before. It calls for our intercession. It calls for all of us to come together, stronger, bigger and better.
We have all witnessed the challenges of our country. We don’t have any other place that we can call home. We need to be very careful not to turn the security issues in our land into an ethnic, religious or tribal war. We need to be careful to ensure that we bring out and we isolate criminally-minded people in our community. Let’s avoid tribalising it, giving it an ethnic coloration or turning it into a religious issue. We are the largest country in Africa; where will we go to? Who will take us? Where can we get on to? We have no other land than here and that is why I said that, indeed, Nigeria needs a new beginning. Nigeria needs a new dawn. Nigeria needs a new glory.
For my government and I, we will continue with all our strength to serve you and serve you well. We will continue to use every breath that God has given to us. Transparently and truthfully, we will continue to push all the economic pillars that we have set for ourselves.
We are fighting not only health and medical wars because, like I said, COVID is still around; all of us are masked up; we cannot even identify ourselves. We can’t hug ourselves. We can’t greet ourselves and we can’t even shake ourselves. So, we have a health issue that is bothering all of us. We have an economic issue that is challenging us. The country is just coming out of a recession – let us hope that it really comes out of it – when people find it difficult to earn a living, when people find it difficult to eat three decent meals a day. We are confronted with security challenges. We cannot afford to add political instability to this.
Are we saying that God Almighty is not aware? Are we? Certainly not. God Almighty is aware and He doesn’t shake from where He is. So, the challenge is for all of us as leaders in our various spheres of endeavour; be it religious leaders, be it political leaders, economic leaders, health or medical leaders, office leaders, church leaders, to take up the responsibility and ask ourselves: “What can I do differently to make sure that we all have a better tomorrow?” “How will I leave this place better for our children and grandchildren than we have met it?”
Today, more than ever before, we need to come together as a nation. We need to come together as the body of Christ. Our leadership in the Christian faith needs to come stronger together, irrespective of your individual differences, and let us hold the beacon and the light of the nation together and pray to the Almighty that during our time, greater and better things will happen. Not under your watch will we see a crumbling nation or crumbling state. It will never happen and it will never happen in your time.
For my government and I, we will continue with all our strength to serve you and serve you well. We will continue to use every breath that God has given to us. Transparently and truthfully, we will continue to push all the economic pillars that we have set for ourselves. For traffic management and transportation, I will come here some day and say to you that our railways have started working. I will come here some day and I will declare to you that we have opened up 16 brand new jetty terminals that you can use for water transportation. I will come here one day and I will tell you new bridges have been built, like the one we opened yesterday to connect various parts of the city.
On health and environment, I will come here one day and I will declare to you that we have built the biggest children’s hospital in West Africa. I will come here one day and I will tell you that we have built an Infectious Disease Research Centre, the biggest in Africa, so that when another pandemic comes, we can begin to produce vaccines in Nigeria, in Lagos. We do not need to wait for anybody in America or India for them to produce vaccines for us.
I will come here one day and I will say although we may not be able to build houses for everybody, but we can add another 10,000 housing stock to the housing needs of the state and these houses would be available on a long term basis so that you don’t need to pay with a single cheque to be a house or home owner.
Under education and technology, I will come here one day and I will say to you that almost every house will have internet connectivity that will be second to none. The one we are deploying is to ensure that all of our youths and young people have internet connectivity that would be available at a cheaper rate. I will come to you one day and say that, indeed, we have added 1,500 new classrooms to our public schools. I will come to you one day and say that we have recruited additional 5,000 teachers; that indeed we have renovated over 500 schools that are all in the public space.
Under Making Lagos a 21st Century economy, I will come here one day and I will say to you that even as difficult as power is, we have been able to galvanise and ensure that power is accessible, affordable and it is in all the nooks and crannies of the State. And that power will not just be for two-three minutes, you can have power for a minimum of 20 hours a day to run your businesses.
These are the commitments that we are putting together.
I will come here one day and I will say although we may not be able to build houses for everybody, but we can add another 10,000 housing stock to the housing needs of the state and these houses would be available on a long term basis so that you don’t need to pay with a single cheque to be a house or home owner. Because of the strong youth population that we have, I will come here one day to say that our entertainment and tourism industry is second to none in the whole of Africa. Because, indeed, we would have galvanised and we would have encouraged those youths to be real entrepreneurs, the people who can carry our culture and our tourism outside the shores of our country.
And finally, I will come here one day to talk boldly about security and good governance and I will be able to tell you that, indeed, we all can sleep with our two eyes closed because by that time we believe that what we have been asking for under the State police would have come to reality and we can put our money where our mouth is and I can fully protect each and every one of you. This is the Lagos of my dream. This is the Lagos that I see. This is the Lagos that we are promising you. And this is the Lagos that we believe is possible for each and every one of us.
Babajide Sanwoolu is the governor of Lagos State.
This is excerpted from the speech presented at the Interdenominational Divine Service (IDDS 2021), with the theme: “A new beginning, a new dawn and a new glory”, organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Apostolic Church, Ketu on February 20. There the governor was decorated as the Grand Patron of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State branch.
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